Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
School Milk Scheme
746. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if research has been undertaken on the reason schools do not, or have ceased taking up, the school milk scheme; if there are links to issues relating to facilities and equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10963/20]
The EU School Milk Scheme merged with the EU School Fruit and Vegetables Scheme on 1 August 2017 to form a Single School Scheme under a joint EU legal and financial framework. Under this new Regulatory framework, Ireland submitted a six-year Statement of Strategy for the implementation of the School Scheme in Ireland covering the period 1 August 2017 -31 July 2023. My Department as the Competent Authority stated its key objective was to halt the decline in the participation in the School Milk Scheme in Ireland. Participation had decreased by over 50% in the eight years preceding the 2017/18 school year.
As a result, my Department commissioned research in April 2018 to identify the barriers to the uptake of the School Milk Scheme. The research identified a number of reasons for the decrease in participation levels, including an increase in water consumption, price perceived as too expensive, parental contribution required for non-DEIS schools and that children do not consume milk at home. The research also highlighted some issues regarding school facilities and equipment, including the frequency of delivery, particularly in rural areas.
In light of the findings, my Department has undertaken a number of actions to deliver an improved School Milk Scheme over the last two school years including:
- Targeted recruitment campaign in advance of the commencement of the new school year by the National Dairy Council (NDC) ).
- Enhanced accompanying measures/educational resources in the form of a new School Milk Week delivered, with associated publicity campaigns and competitions to raise awareness.
- Increasing the parental subsidy to make the scheme more affordable for parents.
- Trialling of a new method of delivery of milk to schools.
I would anticipate that these targeted measures will result in increased participation numbers over the lifetime of the current six year strategy.